Monday, February 27, 2012

Short, Productive Monday. One can argue with the product, but the Senate pushed two education-related proposals forward on Monday; one on the Senate floor and one in the Senate Education Committee. HF 1870, the bill that allows school districts to base unrequested leave of absence (lay-off) policy on teacher evaluation outcomes rather than seniority, passed the Senate floor by a vote of 36-26. There was an amendment added to the bill in the Senate Education Committee relating to protections for probationary teachers, so the bill will have to return to the House, where the House will consider whether or not to accept the Senate amendment. If the amendment is accepted, the House will still have to approve the bill with a floor vote before the bill can be sent to the Governor. If the amendment is not accepted, a conference committee will be convened between the House and Senate to work out the minor difference that exists between the bills.

In either case, it won't be long before the bill ends up on the Governor's desk and it's anyone guess as to what the Governor will sign or veto the legislation. The one obvious "out" that opponents of the bill have is that there is a task force on teacher evaluation that is currently meeting and an argument can be made that this group should be able to finish its work before a wholesale change to the tenure system is enacted. Whether that is argument is reason enough for the Governor to veto the bill remains to be seen.

At any rate, kudos are in order for House author Representative Branden Petersen (R-Andover) and Senate author Senator Pam Wolf (R-Spring Lake Park) for their hard work on the issue.

The Senate Education Committee passed SF 1917, another bill authored by Senator Wolf. SF 1917 is the Senate companion to HF 2293 (Davnie-DFL-Minneapolis), the bill that would extend the use of prone restraint for another year. Unlike HF 2293, which was laid over for further discussion, the committee passed SF 1917 after adding an amendment. The bill will now head to the Senate floor. I described the bill and the controversy surrounding it in an entry last week, but I would like to add again that this legislation is extremely important for the protection of students and staff, especially in settings that deal with considerable numbers of students who may become extremely violent periodically.

Programs like Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) are proving helpful in handling students with violent behavior patterns, but they likely will not eliminate periodic outbursts that can become incredibly violence. Opponents of extending the use of prone restraint contend that use of prone restraint does not change the behavior of violent students, but that is not the intent of prone restraint. Prone restraint is only used in emergency situations to protect students and staff and not to change long-term behavior patterns of students on whom it is used.

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